Guns and Knives

I unexpectedly found myself staring down the barrel of a gun today. At the other end of the barrel, holding the gun, was a member of South Yorkshire Police’s Armed Response Unit.

Of course, my life is not nearly exciting enough to make me a target for armed police officers. (At least, I hope it isn’t!) And just to remove all the dramatic impact from my opening sentence, I should point out that the gun wasn’t loaded, a fact of which everyone present was well aware.

This morning four officers from the Armed Response Unit brought the Guns and Knives Take Lives presentation to my school. The aim is simple: to reduce the number of young people who get caught up in incidents involving guns (including BB guns and imitation weapons) or knives.

We weren’t the first school to see this presentation; the feedback from the other schools in the area was that it was “very good.” I think that they were wrong, that “very good” is an inadequate description in this case, because what I saw was much better than that!

Lots of individuals and organisations come into schools and talk to students. These people are there with the best of intentions, often to share something about which they care passionately. Unfortunately, and I hate to admit this, it’s often a waste of time and the visitors’ words fall largely on deaf ears.

This is because talking to students isn’t easy. Getting their attention isn’t easy, keeping it isn’t easy, persuading them to think about what you have said is far from easy and challenging their beliefs or causing them to change their behaviour often feels like an impossible task. After all, teachers find this difficult – and we do it every single day!

Today the police officers who visited got it absolutely right and very quickly had the undivided attention of every single student in the hall.

They were authoritative but not condescending. They gave clear information about the risks and consequences of carrying or using weapons, but they did this in a way which was intended to inform, not to alarm or intimidate. Importantly, they used real-life examples to make their points, talking about events that have actually occurred in our region. Teenagers hear about hypothetical scenarios from adults all the time, but real-life has real impact.

The police officers were in control of their audience and didn’t hesitate to insist on co-operation from the one or two individuals who talked at the start of the presentation; but they also connected with the students, made them feel involved and encouraged them to answer questions and take part.

They didn’t just talk, they showed video-clips and brought along an arsenal of weapons which they displayed during the presentation. The gun may not have been loaded, we all knew that, but it certainly got our attention.

Unfortunately I only saw the first half of the presentation; it ran into a second lesson and I had to go and teach another class.

The students’ reactions after the event were interesting: they were reflective and thoughtful, even from those from whom I would have expected a show of bravado. Let’s hope that the event passes the real test and reduces the number of young people injured by guns or knives in the months and years to come.

1 comment to Guns and Knives

  • everybody

    Stop black kids and ”i wish i was a black kid” carrying guns !! They think they are so big and older then they are BUT there the scum of this earth! Not all black kids are bad by along way but 75% if not more are and its time to stop messing around.
    Why should anybody live in fear that some 15year old boy or girl will! stab or shoot us for as little as a phone or maybe the way we looked at them. It wont get better. Too much MTV maybe and thinking they live in gang lang which if ture still doesn’t give them the right to kill!!!!!!
    Has the time now come to start fighting back ???

    Three-Legged-Cat writes: Thanks for commenting, but I have to disagree with your first point. I don’t think that gun crime is a racial issue, I do think that the overwhelming majority of kids are nice, decent people. Demonising black kids, or young people in general doesn’t help to find a solution.